Huge, giant, glaring disclaimer: please do not just scan this journal entry. If you aren't up for a lengthy, rather visceral dissertation into why I have a problem with "normal", then please move on. Consider yourself warned. I've included pictures here which many find quite disturbing, and the casual scanner might think I have some kind of unhealthy obsession, which I do not. I have a healthy obsession with pointing out what's wrong with American society, and what is right about it. I've included photos of both here, and without a careful reading of this essay from top to bottom, start to finish, it will certainly be taken the wrong way. I thought long and hard before deciding to include the pictures. It was quite nauseating to view them ... and yet I feel they need to be included in order to get my point across. It's shocking to see them all grouped together the way they are, especially in the context with which I am grouping them (which you will only understand if you read the whole thing).
I work in the news business. Sometimes the endless string of death and destruction stories that parade before my consciousness make me a little nutty. This is my way of venting, of making sense of it all, and hopefully, helping to put an end to it while I'm at it.
Of all the stories we do in the news business, the one about the maniac who went into an Amish community wreaking havoc, Charles Carl Roberts IV, has really got my attention.
Have we become this complacent as a society? (I know I'm not the only one writing these very words.) Have we allowed ourselves to get to this point of permissiveness where any one of us could even fathom ourselves committing such an act on such a harmless group of people? It begs the question: what the hell is wrong with us?
No, really! ... I really want to know!!
The initial reports I heard were that Roberts was a "normal" guy who suddenly just flipped his lid. Frankly, I don't buy that. People don't just wake up one day with homicidal tendencies. There are signs, and this is what bothers me the most: people will go along ignoring the signs until one day they decide NOT to ignore the signs anymore, and then label it "waking up one day suddenly abnormal". No, sorry, I don't buy that AT ALL folks.
His wife said, "That's not the man I married." Apparently it is lady!! Come on!!! Are we so incapable of being honest with ourselves? Some people will think I'm being too harsh -- "she's grieving," they'll say. "Let her be." And that my friends is precisely the problem. We "leave people be" and then look what happens.
More importantly we need to not "let" ourselves "be". There is a fine line between "live and let live" and looking the other way. Ok, on a softer note most people probably don't know the difference between the two. They just don't. That doesn't mean, however, that you should make excuses for not knowing! Just have the integrity to admit it! Is that so hard???
Oh ... it IS??? It's hard to be able to say, "I was wrong." ???
Ask those gentle Amish people if it's hard to bury those 5 innocent lives, taken so unnecessarily. They want to destroy that school building the shootings took place in. Do you blame them? I bet they don't even refer to what happened as being "murders", because murder is not a word in Amish vocabulary!!!
And I say this could have been prevented. Roberts was described as 'normal'. Either the reports are lies, or there is a very real danger in being 'normal'. This argument has been made before with regards to the Columbine shootings. After Columbine, young men and women who wore black or dressed in a way similar to the Columbine shooters ("gothic") were targeted as being capable of committing the same crimes. Which, besides being ridiculously false, is also conveniently short of taking the picture in full. Again, as with Roberts, the Columbine shooters were described as having a mostly "normal" life.
But ask yourselves – and be honest, please – how often do the guys who actually commit the things that most of us can’t even imagine, let alone consider ourselves doing, look like the Goth kids? They don’t. They look perfectly … normal. Let’s face it, the black clothing and black eyeliner is downright comforting when you compare it to the mugshots one usually sees on the news accompanied by the headline “MURDERER”. It is far more chilling to see someone who looks like “everybody else” (whatever that means, because everybody looks different to me) associated with things like shooting 8-year-old Amish girls in the head execution-style, at a one-room Amish schoolhouse.
I recall hearing some reports that the Columbine shooters didn't have much supervision by their parents. Maybe their parents were too busy pursuing "normal".
And, oh by the way, don’t forget how the 9/11 terrorists carried out their plans: a major part of their success is owed to the fact that they looked … just … like … the rest of us. They looked … “normal”.
I would like to point out the case of the BTK killer Dennis Rader (whom I’ve written about in this journal). The epitome of “normal”. Not just normal, but church-going, married-with-kids, city-employee “normal”. For those of you who have forgotten what “BTK” means, it stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill”. This is what “normal” means.
Also not to be forgotten, how about the Green River Killer? Gary Ridgway was his name (I don’t even know if he’s still alive, to tell the truth). Mr. Ridgway runs circles around BTK if you're talking numbers ... and if you're talking normal for that matter! The BTK killer preyed on women, maybe a dozen or so. The Green River Killer murdered hundreds – hundreds – of women. Mr. Ridgway worked at a Monday through Friday factory job, never called in sick a day in his life (but managed to murder women in the hundreds, try to wrap your brain around that one), was also married, no kids though, and went to flea markets with his wife on the weekends. Two decades went by before he was taken off the streets.
And lest we forget, what about Ted Bundy? Gary Ridgway’s murder numbers made Bundy look like a girl scout, in case you’re wondering, a fact that really chafed Bundy's pride according to what I've read.
What about Timothy McVeigh? "Normal", right? Albeit rather intense-looking.
What about John Allen Muhammad/Williams (D.C. sniper)?
And finally, Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who will go down in history as the guy who murdered the Amish:
Oo, and don’t get me started on the sexual predators. No, really, I’m serious.
When Charley Roberts’ wife said "That's not the man I married," what I heard is, “That’s not ‘normal’. See, I married ‘normal’ and that is not normal, so therefore that is not the man I married.” I also hear, "I've chosen not to intervene in my husband's life before so why start now? (and oh, by the way, please don’t blame me for this because I couldn’t bear it)".
The Goth kids abhor “normal”. Well … most of the Goth kids I know anyway. The Goth kids are at least willing to face their inner demons. Goth kids are colorful; "normal" covers up color as much as possible.
(here's a link to a website where I got this picture. It pretty much sums up, better than I can, the definition of "goth": http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=goth)
Intervention. How many times have we found ourselves in situations (myself included) that we KNOW a mere ounce of intervention on our part would have equalled several tons of prevention, but instead we chose to continue walking by, telling ourselves we have deadlines to meet, or worried spouses at home waiting for us, or my favorite, they wouldn’t want me meddling in their affairs and they can handle it anyway (how the hell do I know that?), or any of a host of other excuses. Because that's what they are: excuses. The things we tell ourselves in order to avoid getting involved with another person's life.
But then again, like I said, there are people (like myself) who simply don't know what the right thing to do is, because frankly meeting deadlines and getting home to worried spouses is also a good thing to do. Also, letting people fight their own fights. And if you grew up in a mostly docile environment like my home was, then how do you know the difference between a situation where you should intervene, and one you should leave alone?
So perhaps I'm wrong to be so harsh on the wife whose husband committed those horrible crimes. No doubt she was going along thinking she was doing the right thing, hoping, maybe even praying for the best, all the time wondering how to get through to her troubled husband ... and knowing deep in her heart that she would deny any knowledge of it if confronted with it (which, by the way, is precisely what she did). But if I'm right, if I'm right that she chose not to intervene in order to keep life from getting too 'messy' for herself, I'll bet she would agree now that intervention is precisely the thing she should have done in order to help prevent this from happening. Yes, I do blame his wife to some degree. If you're married to someone, what the hell are you expecting to accomplish by NOT intervening???!!? Don't you care about that person? Or do you care more about preserving the status quo?
Choices, people. We all have choices to make. I'm no expert in making the right choices myself, and it's recognizing that I'm not that makes me want to plead this case. Whether we accept it or not, whether we choose to hide behind a fortress built of our excuses or not, we must live with the choices we make. I made a choice to write this all out and make it public, and I'm going to have to live with whatever reaction I get from it. I'm going to have to live with getting NO reaction to it, if that's what happens!!! Ha, ha, ha!!
In closing, I leave you dear reader with this thought: don't look at Roberts’ wife and say, "Not my problem," because it is very much your problem. And mine, and everyone else's in this world. It takes a bit of courage to be able to get in another person's face and confront them with actions (or inaction) that you believe may be detrimental to their personal evolution and development as a human being, as a member of society. It also takes practice. But do it! Do it, because someone's life -- yours and mine and everyone else's! -- depends on it!